Vanilla rooibos is a hot beverage similar to tea that is made from the infused, dried leaves and stems of the Aspalathus linearis plant, which grows in South Africa and contains either chopped vanilla beans or vanilla flavoring. Although it is not technically tea, rooibos is often referred to as red tea or red bush. South Africans have drunk rooibos for centuries. In recent years, naturally caffeine-free rooibos has become popular worldwide due to its earthy taste and antioxidant properties. The addition of vanilla to rooibos adds more antioxidant properties and a warm sweetness to balance out the rich flavor of the rooibos.
One of the reasons for the popularity of vanilla rooibos is its taste. Black, green, and white teas contain tannins that give an astringent taste some tea drinkers find unpleasant. Also, tannins may block absorption of iron by the body. Rooibos is low in tannins and naturally slightly sweet. The addition of vanilla emphasizes the sweetness without adding sugar.
The tea is becoming increasingly available in health food stores, grocery stores, and through websites. It is available through a variety of manufacturers in either bags or loose-leaf form. Traditionally, South Africans drink rooibos without milk, but modern herbal tea drinkers frequently add milk or sweetener, sometimes both to make a vanilla rooibos latte.
Rooibos is available in either green or red varieties. Red rooibos is dried and rolled, or fermented, and is slightly sweeter than its less highly processed green counterpart. Green rooibos contains more beneficial compounds than red rooibos and is slightly more expensive.
Like tea, vanilla rooibos contains compounds that have a beneficial effect on health. Historically, South Africans drank rooibos to treat such maladies as insomnia, allergies, and skin conditions. Research has shown rooibos to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health by improving the lipid profiles of study subjects. Other studies have shown rooibos may have anti-cancer properties. Vanilla rooibos contains phenolic compounds that are different from black, white, and green teas but have a similar anti-tumor effect.
Vanilla rooibos may contain vanillin either in the form of vanilla flavoring or shavings from vanilla beans, depending on the brand. If vanilla rooibos contains actual vanilla beans, then it would have additional health benefits from vanilla. According to the results of several research studies, vanilla may slow the growth of cancer cells and prevent mutations in normal cells that sometimes lead to cancer. Vanilla may also interfere with the body’s production of a compound that leads to degenerative diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.